Rena Response - Polytechnic tutors and students respond to the call
Friday, 21 October 2011
From day one of the Rena stranding, tutors and students from Bay of Plenty Polytechnic have answered the calls for assistance from councils, salvors and the community to do what they can to minimise the impact of this disaster on our local environment. They have been helping out with environmental monitoring, beach clean-up crews, catering, electrical and building work, wildlife rescue and operating rescue tenders.
Marine and Environmental students attended oil response training and subsequently led teams of beach cleanup volunteers as well as bolstering the number of wildlife response volunteers on the coastline. “All of our Environmental students are already trained in the handling of native birds” says Dean Tully, group leader for the Marine Studies and Environmental management. “With the change in wind, it’s important the eastern bay communities brace themselves for further impacts”, says Dean Tully. “We’re not out of the woods yet. It all depends on how much oil they can get off the vessel before it breaks up and how fast the marine environment can break that down”.
Environmental Science tutors and students have carried out site surveys to get a ‘baseline’ of the marine life in key areas before the oil arrived. Follow up dives have since been undertaken at Karewa and Mayor Island following the storm that hampered initial salvage efforts.
Bay of Plenty Polytechnic Animal handling expert, Dr Lindsay Skyner, has been seconded to the oiled wildlife response team at Te Maunga working as a self titled ‘penguin wrangler’. Lindsay is supported by other trained animal care and environmental tutors and students.
When birds are admitted, they are weighed, checked for identification tags, blood tested, vaccinated, cleaned and fed. Each bird takes about 30 minutes to clean before they are released into holding pens until it is safe to release them back into the wild. “Dotterals have been caught pre-emptively to sustain a breeding population, four NZ fur seals were cleaned and released, but the petrels haven’t fared so well. Fortunately the penguins have a 99% survival rate, they are really resilient and don’t get as stressed in captivity” says Dr Skyner,
On the water, Marine Science tutor Dr Andrew Morgan, has been assisting the Navy to patrol the exclusion zone for Maritime NZ. Andrew, a member of the Ngapona Tauranga unit Navy reserves, has assisted the salvage crew getting winched onboard the Rena from an Air Force helicopter. Mark Inglis, international skipper and tutor in the Polytechnic Maritime programmes has been in charge of one of two 10m Rescue tenders that have been on standby for emergency evacuation and to ferry people and supplies to and from the salvage site. “
“There is nothing like a crisis to either polarise or bring a community closer together. We are pleased to see that people of the Bay are made of the right stuff and will keep on putting their hands up to assist wherever possible” says Mark.
Hospitality tutors and students are lending their culinary talents to provide sustenance to the army of volunteers. Art and Radio broadcasting students have set up food runs such as ‘Larry’s Soup Kitchen’ and the ‘Rena Kai Run’, which has over 500 friends on Facebook, who are now contributing to food donations.